Tech giants are mulling whether they want to become religious entities in the United States and Canada, as the tech industry grapples with growing concerns over how technology and social media can be used to target religious groups and promote bigotry.
The moves come as technology companies such as Apple, Facebook, Google and Twitter, along with their rivals Amazon and Netflix, are facing intense scrutiny from lawmakers, regulators and even some lawmakers themselves over how they have marketed apps that offer a variety of content and services.
“There is a very real concern that apps and other services will be used as platforms for inciting or promoting discrimination or bigotry,” Senator Bob Casey, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, said in a statement on Thursday.
“We are concerned that companies that want to market products and services to those who share their beliefs will do so on the basis of how they can best make money from those who don’t share their views.”
Casey said he and other senators are pushing tech companies to provide more “neutral” data to help consumers decide whether or not an app or service is compatible with their religious beliefs.
Casey said the companies should provide more information on what apps can be accessed and how they are being used by people of faith, and they should also be more transparent about how they make money.
“It is unacceptable that technology companies should be able to determine who gets to use an app, and when,” he said.
“If a company wants to use the app, it should provide a reason why it believes it is a good fit for a particular religious group, not simply by allowing the app to be used.”
He said the technology companies need to “put a lot more thought into how they promote and profit from the platforms” they have built.
Google, which has been at the forefront of the tech sector’s response to the growing religious right, is working on a report for Congress to consider in the coming months, according to the company’s general counsel, Scott Howard.
The report will be released as soon as it is finished, he said, adding that the report will discuss how technology companies can continue to promote diversity and inclusion while also protecting their user experience.
“The report will provide the best possible information for Congress, and will ensure that all Americans can use their phones, tablets, computers and other devices in ways that are consistent with their beliefs,” Howard said.
The Senate’s bipartisan committee on technology, which oversees the Federal Communications Commission, is expected to release its report in the next few weeks.
Google’s Howard said in an interview on Thursday that Google’s goal with the report is to provide information that the technology industry can use to support diversity and equal access to technology.
“This is a report that should be useful to Congress in terms of looking at how technology can help bring more diversity and diversity of experiences to the technology marketplace, and to make sure that it doesn’t have a negative impact on the very communities that are the target of this hate speech,” Howard told Axios.
“What we’re looking for is a way to be able for the technology company to have an informed view of how technology plays a role in all this, not just in the technology world but across the tech ecosystem.”
The companies have been working to ensure that their apps and services are designed with inclusion in mind.
They are also working to address the concerns that have been voiced by the American Civil Liberties Union and others, which have accused the companies of marketing their apps as tools for discrimination.
Google has said that it has never discriminated against any group, and that it does not support hate speech.
The tech industry has been working with civil rights groups, including the ACLU, in an effort to ensure their apps do not violate any laws.
In October, the American Humanist Association and the Human Rights Campaign issued a joint statement calling on tech companies and other companies to change their apps’ features to reflect the values of their respective religions.
The statement also said that the apps’ creators should make sure they provide users with accurate information about their faith and the types of people who may use them.